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PCOs Must Move Towards Forming Strategic Partnerships with Clients, say Industry Leaders

Professional Conference Organisers must move towards forming high-level strategic partnership with clients, said international business tourism leaders during a major Dublin conference.

Delegates from six continents and representing over 32 countries attended the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) General Assembly & Annual Meeting, which took place in the Westbury Hotel, Dublin. Representing businesses that manage conferences for 1.2 million delegates per year, the delegates of IAPCO are seen as the leaders in the field, contributing €3.71 billion to business tourism worldwide.

"I believe everyone who attended this Dublin meeting left with at least three to five new pieces of knowledge that will change the way they do business," said Gonzalo Perez Constanzo, President of IAPCO. "Be it in our thinking behind the scope of services we provide, the recognition of our profession, and of course the invaluable exchanges with colleagues over the few days. It was a terrific learning experience and, of course, a wonderful chance to experience the incredible Irish friendliness!"

After the conference, delegates were asked that after visiting Ireland would they consider bringing a conference to Ireland themselves. 89% of respondents said that they would which, considering the size of business managed by the attendees, promises to generate significant revenue to the Irish economy.

Collaborative approach

"It has been a real success, both in terms of showcasing Ireland, and also in helping to move the industry forward. Our collaborative approach has been a real eye-opener to our visitors, and throwing the spotlight on Ireland will hopefully help us increase the revenue generated through business tourism," said Nicola McGrane, Managing Director of Conference Partners, who co-organised the conference with MCI Dublin and Keynote PCO. "We designed a programme that the delegates could actively participate in and contribute to and as a result, we have real outcomes to bring back to our businesses that will help us continue to contribute significantly to the Irish economy."

Over 34% of the General Assembly’s delegates were first-time attendees, with approximately 80% of the delegates coming to Ireland for the first time. The successful Irish bid was a collaborative effort on the part Ireland’s top conference companies, with funding support being provided by Fáilte Ireland. The General Assembly showcased the successful co-operation of these stakeholders in Irish meetings industry.

"This co-ordinated strategic thinking between the Irish business tourism industry was certainly an aspect of the Irish story that we wanted to tell," said Jean Evans, European Manager – Association Relations, MCI Group. "The last decade or so has seen the indigenous industry make great leaps forward and I think IAPCO delegates went home with plans to start doing the same."

Riding the winds of change – new strategies for PCOs

The programme’s theme, ‘Riding the winds of change – new strategies for PCOs’, highlighted the increasingly strategic nature of PCOs partnerships with clients, moving away from the logistical partnerships of the past. Managing Director of Keynote PCO, Noel Mitchell commented "We’re no longer just providers; we’re partners."

Delegates’ testimonials also attested to the success of the IAPCO General Assembly in Dublin. The social programme included an Irish Dancing flashmob, where 100 delegates spontaneously started dancing in the streets of Dublin, a particular success. Georgina Alexopoulou, of Erasmus SA in Greece said: "It was a truly enjoyable meeting with a perfect balance of learning, networking and having great fun among our peers. Everything, from the hotel facilities and the location to the stunning tastes of Ireland and the team feeling during all activities was really unique."